The Washington Nationals just announced that, starting this season, fans will no longer be able to bring backpacks into the ballpark. They will make exceptions for backpack-style diaper bags or backpacks used for ADA/medical reasons. Anything else, including purses, briefcases, drawstring bags, diaper bags and soft-sided coolers have to be smaller than 16”x16”x8”.
You will not be surprised to hear that the Nationals cite “security” as the reason for this. You will also not be surprised that they do not say what kind of security risk backpacks pose in 2019 that they did not pose in 2018, 2017 or in any of the years before that. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t know someone could do bad things via a backpack at a sporting event before now. That’s why they have metal detectors and bag searches at every single ballpark these days. What has changed, exactly?
Asking around on Twitter, many have suggested to me that it’s less about there being a security threat than a security inefficiency. A few Nats fans tell me that the lines to get into the ballpark have been long in recent years and a big part of that is that bag searches take a long time. That seems to me to be more of a staffing issue than a security issue. Or perhaps a financial issue, in that the longer it takes fans to get inside the less beer and stuff will be sold. Whatever the truth of the matter is, in this country we’ve developed the habit of not questioning things when someone cites “security,” so I’d probably go with that too if I ran the Nationals.
I do know a couple of things, though. I know that a primary selling point for downtown parks like Nats Park was that people can just go from work to the ballgame during the week. That’s a bit harder now for people who don’t have time to swing home and drop off their stuff before going to the game (i.e. almost everyone).
I also know that, as we make the ballpark experience more and more like going to the airport, the less and less enjoyable it becomes.
I also know that attendance is down across the league.
But hey, security.